We are the two people (/u/xelay and /u/crossp) who run a hamster rescue called The Pipsqueakery. The Pipsqueakery is a 501c3 hamster rescue and sanctuary located in Bloomington, Indiana. You can find proof that we are who we say we are on this post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BFMTdVXni-e/ (you can also find the post at www.thepipsqueakery.org)

Since we started we have helped 221 hamsters! Of those, we have loved and lost 52 hamsters and adopted 108 to forever homes. We have also helped 34 mice, and 6 chinchillas find forever homes or live here. Currently we house 61 happy hamsters, 12 mice, and 5 chinchillas (including one medically complicated house chinchilla)!

Ask us anything!!

Comments: 42 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

DanniDorrito5 karma

Could you talk us through your daily routine? I imagine that gets quite busy!

xelay6 karma

It really really depends on the day. On a weekday when we both work (I'm a lawyer, he's a nurse) it basically goes like this:

6:00 am: I wake up and Lupin is asleep on top of me. I cuddle him with pets and kisses for like 30 minutes.

6:30 am: Lupin protests mightily but I have to get up for work. I generally check on Kristoff (who is also in our bedroom) and make sure he has food, water, and clean toes. Then I get ready for work.

6:45 am (see how fast I get dressed): I grab a yogurt and go down to the basement to do a cursory check on the hamsters just to make sure nothing looks way off. I might share my yogurt with a hamster, get a quick cuddle, and if anyone is on medication this is when I give them meds.

7:30am-5:00pm: I'm at work. I answer lots of hamster questions from people on my breaks and lunch. If one of the hamsters is sick I usually get updates from /u/CrossP (he works nights, I work days) or the vet on how they are doing. If someone is really sick or needs middle of the day meds I might skip lunch and go take care of them.

5:00pm: I'm home from work and Lupin is protesting /u/CrossP getting up to go to work. I snuggle Lupin and try to get him to eat some food.

5:30pm-10:00pm: I feed myself and the hamsters. I check water bottles and feed the hamsters. If anyone needs meds or medical care I take care of it. If anyone has destroyed a water bottle I get them a new one and clean up their wet bedding. I might hand out treats or give some cuddles. Sometimes my whole evening can revolve around feeding and caring for one sick hamster and when that happens everyone else just has to wait.

10:00pm: I finally get ready for bed. I bring any hamsters that need middle of the night care (like sometimes every 2 hour feedings) up to the bedroom and park them beside the bed (or in the bed, either way really). Lupin pounces on my neck and falls asleep and I go to sleep with the sound of a chinchilla snoring in my ear while he drools on the side of my face.

Weekends include water bottle changes, more playtime, health checks, nail clipping, grooming, photoshoots, adopting hamsters out, having our intern over, cage cleaning when necessary, food making, snuggles, playing D&D (hey we need other hobbies too), wheel washing, toy building, fundraising, mailing thank you cards, and right now a lot of unpacking since we just moved to a new house!

xelay1 karma

/u/crossp probably has a different idea of what the daily schedule looks like so maybe he will answer too.

DanniDorrito4 karma

What got you into creating a hamster rescue? Also what's been the worst case of abuse you've seen brought into your rescue?

xelay8 karma

In March 2012 we bought our first three hamsters from a pet store (I know, I know), and then shortly thereafter, in June 2012 we adopted 3 hamsters from the local shelter. One of those hamster was named Pipsqueak. We quickly realized she was ill and for the next four months we took her to many veterinary appointments, and whenever we traveled she went with since she was always on medication. Four months later on a Saturday morning, September 8, 2012, Pipsqueak passed away in our hands while we told her how much we loved her and would never forget her.

It was our time with her that inspired us to start rescuing hamsters and gave us the drive to focus on caring for even the sickest of hamsters. Nearly 4 years later we now care for 61 hamsters in our home. Most are sanctuary hamsters because of serious chronic medical issues, behavioral problems, or just old age. We have had many hamsters need surgery, we have treated diabetes, we have had severely injured hamsters, we have had hamsters missing limbs, and so much more. It just seems like they are considered a pet that can be tossed aside when owners are sick of them, but we see them as these tiny little creatures with such huge individual personalities. We can't save every hamster, but we always do our best to make room for the hamsters that really need the specialized care we can provide.

As for the worst case of abuse, I would have to say that's a tie between Marvel and Nic.

Marvel's story is at the following link, but be warned the images are quite graphic. http://imgur.com/a/PEADb Marvel came to us all the way from West Virginia with some of the worst injuries I have ever seen. He was found in a pet store by a friend of a friend with his flesh actually rotting off after having been attacked by another hamster.

Nic's story is just a sad one of serious neglect and an owner that was willing to feed him to the dogs rather than get him proper medical care. His story is at this link: http://imgur.com/a/n7233

Tjolerie4 karma

How do you do fundraising?

xelay3 karma

We have done some crowdfunding, we have tshirts for sell on teespring.com, and we have a sponsor-a-hamster program. Basically, we need to do more, but it's hard to find time!

RatsnBats4 karma

I follow you on Tumblr, and I've always personally been more of a rat person and didn't really like hamsters, but your blog has given me a new appreciation for them. :) So, a few questions..

First, what is it about hamsters that you love so much? What makes them special and sets them apart from other small animals for you?

Second, what would you say are the most common mistakes first time hamster owners make when caring for their hamster?

And third, I often have people tell me that I'm silly/crazy to care so much about my rats, and I imagine you sometimes get the same thing from people. How do you react to that without chewing someone's face off?

xelay3 karma

I'm thinking really hard about that first question and I'm not totally sure I have a good answer. I mean I find them to be lower maintenance and have far less smell than mice or rats. With big enough cages they only need to have cages cleaned once a month and they are easily litter trained. I also happen to be very allergic to guinea pigs and rabbits so there is also that. I think the real truth might be something along the lines of how much I love their quirky asocial personalities. It's like they don't really need or want the love and attention so when you really win them over it's sorta special. Plus, I love their tiny tails and sniffy little noses.

I think the most common mistake I see is getting one of those horrible crittertrail/habitrail style cages with all the tubes. Hamsters need a lot more space than that, they're sorta terrible climbers, those cages make people more likely to get bit since you can really only stick one hand in to grab a hamster, and they are torture to clean. Get a nice big aquarium or bin cage and it will be so much better for the hamster and the new owner.

Finally, I've pretty much given up on getting upset about that. I get it a ton and pretty much just have to smile and walk away. I care about what I'm doing and I don't think it's any sillier than many other hobbies that people have. Plus, my hamsters are damn cool so I can go home and cuddle them until I feel better.

juggilinjnuggala3 karma

what's the average cost per hamster when it comes to care and rehab?

xelay7 karma

Each hamster costs a minimum of $6 a month for food, bedding, litter, and other small items like treats and chews. So that means at 61 hamsters we are spending at least $366 a month on basic supplies. If an average hamster were to live with us for 1.5 years that would cost us $108 just for the basic care of the hamster (I would guess most live with us for about 1.5 years if you average out the longterm residents and fast adoptions).

However, and this is a big however, the cost skyrockets when veterinary care is involved. For example, we took one of our hamsters to the vet to have surgery today and her bill will likely be a minimum of $250 (probably more because it turns out the mass has grown around her urethra). So, we have hamsters that have had $500+ worth of surgery, we have had hamsters on insulin (they cost about $50 a month to keep alive), and we have hamsters that need really specialized diets which all add to the cost.

Given all that it's really hard to come up with a good average, but I would guess every hamster we take in costs us an average of $300 in their lifetime. Any hamster could individually easily costs $500-1000 if they have a serious medical issue though.

LemonTeeth3 karma

Is it true that some hamsters are just really mean b*****ds that you can't keep with others, because they'll just kill the other ones outright?

xelay8 karma

Syrian hamsters are naturally solitary so they cannot live with other hamsters because the odds are they will kill each other. It's not because they're mean though, it's because they are territorial and humans put them together when they should never live together as adults.

That said, some hamsters are also quite aggressive whether because of poor temperament or neglect and abuse.

xelay2 karma

Just so everyone knows, I will be back to answer more questions this evening. I have to finish up my work day and then pick up a hamster from the vet!

rmarkham2 karma

What's your favorite rescue story, and do you have any advice for new/prospective hamster owners?

xelay14 karma

Even though I already linked this one I have to say that I think Marvel's rescue is my favorite. He was found in a pet store in West Virginia by a friend of a friend with his flesh infected and rotting after being attacked by another hamster. She found him on Valentine's day (a Saturday) and within 24 hours a whole train of people came together to get Marvel from West Virginia to Bloomington Indiana. He traveled over 500 miles because of the kindness of strangers and then lived his next month with round the clock care in an oxygen cage until he fully healed and lived another year as a happy healthy hamster with us.

Here's his story, but be warned the pictures of his injuries are pretty graphic. http://imgur.com/a/PEADb

And as for advice for new owners. First, get a big enough cage. 360 square inches really is the absolute minimum and if you can go bigger both you and your hamster will be happier. Second, find a vet who will at least see your hamster in an emergency as soon as you get your hamster. Trust me, it really sucks to be desperately calling around while your hamster is struggling to breathe only to find out that no vet wll see you if you aren't an already established client.

CasualScrubLord2 karma

If there isn't a vet in my area who can help with a sick hamster, what should I do to get them care? Who could I go to?

xelay6 karma

It really depends on what's wrong with your hamster. However, my first inclination would be to search for an exotic vet in your area. By your area I mean within about two hours though because even though we have a vet in town that will see our hamsters for minor things we drive almost 2 hours to an exotic vet for anything remotely complicated.

Of course, sometimes you just have to do what you can to keep your hamster comfortable at home, but the sad reality is that a truly sick hamster will often die without veterinary care.

djpunchntag1 karma

Why do hamsters pee in their wheel? Is it a territorial thing? I have a rescue robo and he pees in his wheel, then runs in it for a bit.

xelay1 karma

I have yet to find a good explanation for wheel peeing. I would guess it is either a territorial thing or just that hamsters get so into running that they don't bother to stop to pee. Either way, wheel peeing is possibly the thing I hate dealing with most so if anyone finds a good explanation for it I would love to hear it.

KellyMPD1 karma

Do you have any limits on how much you're willing to spend before you just say no thanks I'll put it down instead?

I do something similar to what you, but with dogs instead. Generally I won't agree to pay any incoming dogs vet bill of over 500 euros, I'd say just put it to sleep. I have limited space and can't take every dog, plus there are far more dogs than available homes anyway so sometimes we need to make tough choices. I guess I'm just curious if the same applies to tiny animals, given presumably their vet bills will be a bit less and you likely won't have the same space restrictions that we do - I can't stack up small cages with dogs in them :D

xelay2 karma

We don't have a limit that we have hit, yet anyway. There are definitely points where we say that a treatment is too invasive or uncomfortable given the potential benefits but we have not yet had to make that decision solely because of money. I imagine for us it would be very dependent on circumstances and quality of life outcomes. I also suspect that even though the lifetime average cost between dogs and hamster veterinary care is much more expensive for dogs thay individual check-ups or procedures don't have much cost difference. A vet appointment with a truly qualified vet requires me to travel 1.5 hours and pay about $65 so at least finding a vet for a dog would be easier here. Still, dogs are a much longer commitment than hamsters so I'm sure that plays into it.

We do have some space issues since each hamster gets a 575 square inch cage in our homemade hamster condos, so we can really only take the ones we have space for (and they aren't social). That said, a dog still rakes much more space to give it a good quality of life! :-)